Keeping your kids safe online

Keeping your kids safe online

Recently, my son’s school had to deal with an episode of cyber-bullying.  A list of photos was being circulated via Instagram, asking readers to vote for the ‘school’s ugliest among the list.’  Luckily, it reached the school authorities, who took swift action, not only contacting the police and Instagram to get details about the perpetrators, but also launching into a series of school-wide initiatives to talking to students about the consequences of cyber-bullying, and setting up ways in which a student could report any such activity. The school also had a meeting with parents, where we learnt how to recognize the signs of a child being bullied, and how to encourage our children to report to authorities if either they or their friends were being bullied.

Our kids are definitely deeply into technology, as compared to our generation.  In fact, I would even say they most of their socializing is online than face-to-face!  In my son’s school, homework is given and handed back electronically, teachers assign projects via their webpage, and all announcements, right down to bad-weather days off, are announced on the school’s FaceBook page. And since we as parents are not, on the whole, as socially connected as our teenagers are, we should be alive to the dangers that lurk online, especially for our children.

So here is a list of Dos and Dont’s for parents of young children and teenagers, that I got off one of the school’s handouts:

  • Tell your children never to give out their address, telephone number, password, school name or any other personal information.
  • Make sure your children know to never agree to meet face-to-face with someone they’ve met online without discussing it with you. Only if you decide that it’s okay to meet their “cyber-friend” should they arrange to meet this person, and then the meeting should be in a familiar public place in the presence of a trusted adult.
  • Tell your children never to respond to messages that have bad words, are scary, or just seem weird.
  • Tell your children that if an ‘online’  friend asks them to keep the relationship a secret from you, they should inform you at once, or it could lead to something very dangerous.
  • Tell your children never to enter an area that charges for services without asking you first.
  • Tell children never send a picture of themselves to anyone without your permission.
  • Make sure that access to the Internet at your children’s school is monitored by adults.
  • Remember that all that ‘said’ on the internet is permanent.
  • Educate yourself about the sites that your children use.
  • Get your own Facebook account and become ‘friends’ with your child. Ensure that your child’s Facebook account is visible only to friends and not to the public.

Are there any tips I have missed? Do write in and let me know!

And in honour of  Safe Internet Day, let us try to keep the internet a safe place for our kids.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

 

Come to the Library? Tell me why.

This post has been contributed by Vibha Kamat. Vibha runs the MCubed Library (http://mcubedlibrary.com/home.php) in Mumbai, along with her partners Vaishali Shinde and Sonal Bimal.

 libraryNandita came regularly to our library. Such a delight to see someone come and hang out there. I saw her lost in a book many times. She came to the movies we screened and participated in the discussions. So one day I asked if she wanted to be a member at our library. She looked surprised and answered with a question : “What does your library offer me that fancy bookstores don’t?” As I started to blurt out “…but – “ she clarified further : “They are even air-conditioned”.

I was speechless. I muttered something, I think, about the library not trying to compete with a bookstore, apples and oranges ; it sounded ineffective, even to my own ears.But that “but” stayed with me. And as I sit down to write, it makes me think. My friends and I run a library in Bandra. Why?

I think of all the children who come to the library to flop down on our cushions and flip through whatever they have picked off the shelves. And the parents who diligently bring these kids , happy that there is, at last, a library in the vicinity. Some of these parents don’t read themselves, but are keen that their children do. Other parents, readers themselves, take the chaise-longue (comfy, blue, inviting) – and never move!

Then anyone who’s 13 and above makes a beeline for the grown-ups’ section. There’s the teenage-new age version of the Magic Faraway Tree, – remember Enid Blyton’s Moonface, Silky, the Slippery-slip, the Lands that appeared in its highest branches? …Only here, indoors, there’s a sturdy little ladder that takes you to the most fascinating of lands – through the books you have picked on your way up to the loft. Books on various subjects, that catch your fancy….look around, take your pick. (cushions, lights, fans supplied).

And what about those members who regularly come and tell us which books they are longing to read? We make haste and buy them – then call and tell the aforementioned member, who is on our doorstep even before we hang up. Okay, almost.

But I still felt I had not found an answer to her question.

A library, I wanted to start a library. And she had just asked me why.

As my mind walked through the roomy room, I knew. I knew what a library offers you that a bookstore doesn’t.

It’s like your sister’s baby : you get to play with, kiss and make much of the fat dumpling, you take her out to the park, you listen to her stories and laugh and cry with her, you are her travelling buddy in her imaginary world and at the end of the day, you hand her back to her mother. Lovely…

A library offers you books that you like, lets you take them home and when you bring them back, it takes care of them for you.

A library keeps the dust off the pages, covers your books and gets new ones for you when the old copy is worn or torn. The entire collection is yours to read – and share. When you bring back a book, all fired up with what you’ve read, you may just run into another member of the library, who could not stand it. “Whattt?? You couldn’t…” Time for discussion, passionate disagreement, happy endorsement, new suggestions, leading you down the road not taken.

Sometimes, in this busy, noisy, ever-connected life, you need a place to escape. An island of peace. Home? Not really – the fruitwalla has rung the doorbell, is telling you it is his “boni ka time”. The loo? Not anymore.Your mobile is precariously poised on the flush tank. Then? Shangri-la? – you ask, disbelieving.

It’s the library – no mobiles here, the books need quiet. Calm. And so do you.

And lastly – remember we spoke about that baby? Well, the analogy still holds : when you fall in love with the baby, sorry book, and you can’t bear to give her back to her mother, oops, to the library, – ah, that’s when you need to get one of your own.

Then you go to that bookstore Nandita was talking about.

For everything else, come to the library.

Posted in 24×7 Parent and tagged books, hobbies, reading.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

 

Life beyond the idiot box

life beyond the idiot box

What do your kids do in their leisure time? Settle on the couch and switch on the TV. Right? TV has become an integral part of our existence. But try switching off the TV for a day and see the huge amount of time you have on your hands. “But what would the kids do then?” Here are some options for spending a TV free day.

Be a bookworm

Undoubtedly reading is the most fruitful pastime. Unfortunately kids are not encouraged any more to do that. Fiction, poetry, current affairs, and biographies – the list is endless. Pick out books of their liking and stock them for reading. They can go to libraries or swap them with their friends. Many book shops have cozy cafes built in for avid browsers. This can turn in to a family activity where you can suggest books to each other. Discuss the mutually read books to swap ideas. Nothing enlivens a dining table more than a heated discussion on the pros and cons of a book.

By reading books the kids gets an idea of far off places and their people. The mind gets broadened as they pick up other people’s point of view and experiences. Not to say the enhancement of grammar power. You can always guide the youngsters towards broader horizons and new reading experiences.

The fine arts

If a child is lucky enough to be gifted with an artistic flair, it is time to pick it up. Often art techniques, learnt with such dedication, are discarded in the busy schedule. Pass on any skills you know to your children. Remember the fine brush strokes you had mastered; or the rhythm of the Hawaiian guitar that was so close to your heart; or perhaps the rise and fall of those notes of Carnatic music that flowed in your veins. If not, there are numerous classes to take lessons from.Painting, singing, dancing, playing musical instruments, dress designing – whatever tickles their fancy.

Puzzles and brain teasers

Studies say that brain cells tend to disintegrate if they are not used regularly. Just as a stiff exercise regimen is important for a healthy body, similarly the brain requires regular workout too. Pick up some puzzles and brain teasers and give your child’s mental facilities a deep workout. Initially it may seem tough as so start with easier problems. As their brain learns to grapple with the problems, graduate to a higher level. You can try puzzles, anagrams, Sudoku, crosswords, word problems, numerical problems, jigsaw puzzles etc. Puzzles also help in building concentration and perseverance. Competing against each other will bring a healthy spirit of battle amongst the family. You can maintain scores and declare weekly winners.

Play time

Do you remember those card playing sessions reserved for summer holidays? What fun they were! The choices are immense as there are numerous card games to choose from – court-peace, bridge, sweep, rummy, bluff, memory etc. Not only it improves the memory but the kids also learn the strategic planning techniques in a much pleasanter way. Some games help in vocabulary enhancement. Now there are many other board games to choose from. Business to get the grip of financial management, Scotland Yard for sheer planning and memory, Pictionary for expression, What’s the Good Word ,Scrabble or Countdown for word power. The list is endless.

Giving back

Hindu philosophy says that we all are indebted for all things that we receive instantaneously when we are born. We have a debt to the inventors for the inventions, our parents for bringing us up and the farmers for the grain they produce. To show gratitude, we must give back to the society from which we have received so much. We see that this important lesson is missing from the children’s curriculum. The easiest way to teach children to contribute is giving away your spare things for the more needy. There are many NGOs that collect usable clothes and shoes for victims of natural calamities etc. Make this a regular trip. One thing our society needs badly is a keep clean drive, be it the roads, the parks or the rivers. They can extend a helping hand and pay back the debt. By extending a helping hand the kids are also proving themselves to be a role model for others.

Communicate

In this fast paced world, we are fast loosing contact with our family, friends and foes equally. And messages on Facebook do not count! Try channeling the kid’s TV free time to restore these fragile bonds. Let them rediscover the musical sound of pen on paper. Encourage them to write long letters to people you care for. Invest in quality letter paper and pens of their choice.

Be a tourist

We have been living in the city for ages but the tourist hot spots are still unknown to us. There are umpteen monuments, gardens, temples and other religious places around the city where thousands of tourists hang around. Herd up the family in the car and drive down to the nearest fort. Soak up the history of the place, actually listen to the guide and pass on some facts and tales to the younger generation.

Culture vulture

In the fast paced era the other art forms are slowly losing out. What can match the aura of a theatre play, a dance performance or a music recital? It is one thing to see these things on the TV but experiencing it upfront can be real uplifting. Book tickets for one of these events and let the kids see culture come alive first hand. Take them to visit some of the art galleries and admire the nuances of brush and strokes.

Grow a green thumb

Nothing matches the pleasure of sowing plants and observing them grow. If you don’t have a patch of land, get some pots. Let the kids plant their favorite flowers and herbs and enjoy them. An exciting idea is to have a pizza garden. Kids really love it! Grow all the things required to make a fabulous pizza like tomatoes, onions and herbs. When they are ready, make a fantastic pizza out of the home grown produce.

DIY projects

Nothing is greater fun than making something along with your family. Take up a project that involves the kids and see the exciting results. It could be making a cupboard, repainting a room, crafting a quilt, setting up furniture, rigging up a computer even. Be ambitious and creative and see the great times roll.

Be one with nature

In the hustle bustle of the concrete jungle we live in, we are losing touch with the beauties of nature. Take the kids on a long drive along a tree lined road and let them breathe in the fresh air. A hike in the woods would be equally invigorating. Admire a flower garden and smell the heady fragrance. Visit a flower show and see the umpteen species blooming there.

Are these ideas new? Of course not! That is what people did for entertainment BT. What’s BT? Before Television.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

 

A parent’s role in enhancing kids’ self-esteem

self-esteem-childrenParents” the word itself is so emotional and expressive. For a mother, God has given us the boon to feel a child all from inside and of course, after birth, with all our emotions and sentiments……it is our primary and wholesome duty to thank God by helping these masses of energy, our children grow up and be responsible citizens of the country. I am into a profession that actually deals with expressions, well I’m a scriptwriter, and my profession has made me get acquainted with many people, from different walks of life…… A lot of talking and sharing made me realize that parents of today feel that children are more smarter to take up hard work as they have to compete, and in turn from a very tender age they start over burdening the kids with not studies….which normally they can cope up with but the various co-curricular activities.

When we were small we knew this was one field which grew out of love of it but at present the concept has been given an absolute different definition… which is hardly helping the tender growing mind. They are not getting the space to grow….Besides a script writer I at times groom the little ones in the summer camps and I have seen the potential they have in them. Freedom has always helped them give out the best.

Motivation and encouragement has always made children grow free and not by pushing them to the crucial world of competition but by making them aware and gradually love the extra which we want them to learn. We are encircled with numerous diamonds and stars, all in its own natural form the only vital responsibility of the manufacturers are to carefully work on it! Polish them such that they are no less than the precious Kohinoor and be the sun’s powerful light source; so that we see a galaxy of reflecting stars, twinkle. The more burden the more anxiety which in turn demoralize these kids resulting in a very poor self esteem. Healthy self-esteem is a child’s armor against the challenges of the world. Kids who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily and enjoy life. These kids are realistic and generally optimistic. In contrast, kids with low self-esteem can find challenges to be sources of major anxiety and frustration. Those who think poorly of themselves have a hard time finding solutions to problems. If given to self-critical thoughts such as “I’m no good” or “I can’t do anything right,” they may become passive, withdrawn, or depressed. Faced with a new challenge, their immediate response is “I can’t.”
Here’s how you can play important role in promoting healthy self-esteem in your child.

What Is Self-Esteem?
Self-esteem can be defined as feelings of capability combined with feelings of being loved. A child who is happy with an achievement but does not feel loved may eventually experience low self-esteem. Likewise, a child who feels loved but is hesitant about his or her own abilities can also end up with low self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem comes when the right balance is reached.

How can a parent help to foster healthy self-esteem in a child? These tips can make a big difference:

  • Watch what you say. Kids are very sensitive to parents’ words. Remember to praise your child not only for a job well done, but also for effort. But be truthful. For example, if your child doesn’t make the school sports team, avoid saying something like, “Well, next time you’ll work harder and make it.” Instead, try “Well, you didn’t make the team, but I’m really proud of the effort you put into it.” Reward effort and completion instead of outcome.
  • Be a positive role model. If you’re excessively harsh on yourself, pessimistic, or unrealistic about your abilities and limitations, your child may eventually mirror you. Nurture your own self-esteem, and your child will have a great role model.
  • Identify and redirect your child’s inaccurate beliefs. It’s important for parents to identify kids’ irrational beliefs about themselves, whether they’re about perfection, attractiveness, ability, or anything else. Helping kids set more accurate standards and be more realistic in evaluating themselves will help them have a healthy self-concept. Inaccurate perceptions of self can take root and become reality to kids. For example, a child who does very well in school but struggles with math may say, “I can’t do math. I’m a bad student.” Not only is this a false generalization, it’s also a belief that will set the child up for failure. Encourage kids to see a situation in its true light. A helpful response might be: “You are a good student. You do great in school. Math is just a subject that you need to spend more time on. We’ll work on it together.”
  • Be spontaneous and affectionate. Your love will go a long way to boost your child’s self-esteem. Give hugs and tell kids you’re proud of them. Pop a note in your child’s lunchbox that reads, “I think you’re terrific!” Give praise frequently and honestly, without overdoing it. Kids can tell whether something comes from the heart.
  • Give positive, accurate feedback. Comments like “You can do it and you have the potential!” will make kids feel like they have no control over their outbursts. A better statement is, “You were really mad at your brother. But I appreciate that you didn’t yell at him or hit him.” This acknowledges a child’s feelings, rewards the choice made, and encourages the child to make the right choice again next time.
  • Create a safe, loving home environment. Kids who don’t feel safe or are abused at home will suffer immensely from low self-esteem. A child who is exposed to parents who fight and argue repeatedly may become depressed and withdrawn. Also watch for signs of abuse by others, problems in school, trouble with peers, and other factors that may affect kids’ self-esteem. Deal with these issues sensitively but swiftly. And always remember to respect your kids.
    Help kids become involved in constructive experiences. Activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem. For example, mentoring programs in which an older child helps a younger one learn to read can do wonders for both kids.
  • It is important that you encourage your child. Just give a try it works.

We never know the love of our parents for us till we have become parents….Whatever gesture we choose to express our thanks, the important thing is that they know how much we love them…and Parents taught their kids, or shall I say Motivate kids to Move there lives in a certain direction.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

 

To push or not to push.

Parenting is all about pushing; it begins with labour, and after that, there’s really no getting away from it.
Initially, it’s all about the little things – push in one more spoonful of food, make the child sleep, potty-train, that sort of thing.
And of course, you tell yourself that you’re so not going to be a pushy parent; that once the child can understand reason, you will make him/her come around to your way of thinking without resorting to parental pressure and authority. All because you don’t want to be a pushy parent; all because there isn’t a word with more negative connotations than ‘pushy parent’, is there?
Ever since Amy Chua’s ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ created a stir, we’ve debated on the concept of parents making the kids perform – be it in the arts, sports or academics. And in India, this debate, in many ways is pretty one-sided. Not because all Indian parents are pushy – far from it, but because most parents value super-achieving kids. Even if it is at the cost of childhood.
I do not exaggerate; I see all around me kids as young as 4 or 5 going from one class to another – the weekday given over to more than three activities, so that the child gets ‘exposed’ to the arts, sports and academics at a young age. But which child of 4 or 5 enjoys it? Naturally, the child baulks at the idea of no-free-time and a string of extra-curricular activities. The parent, however, has water-tight explanations.
‘No, no, at that age they’re too young to decide’; ‘only if he/she tries it for a year, they will know if they like it or not’. And so on.
But the same parents, however, find that the going gets harder as the child gets older, mostly because the child learns to resist.
Mind maths? But why?
Tennis class? Oh god, why?
Dance class? Why can’t I skip and watch TV?
Everything becomes a row; some escalate into wars; things turn ugly. Punitive measures are imposed; parental authority is exercised but often disregarded. And then the introspection starts – should we have done something differently? Are we ‘forcing’ the child to do something he/she is really averse to? But isn’t it for their own good? Won’t they be thankful we made them do this when they’re older?
There are, of course, no easy answers. What works for one parent-child, won’t work for another.
In our household, for instance, things have always been very laissez-faire; so easy going that the daughter herself begged for extra-curricular lessons. At 12. And she enjoys her lessons (ballet and debate) and thrives in them. (That actually made me wonder if I shouldn’t have started her off earlier. But nevermind.)
But I also know of kids who took to sports at a very early age; found that they were passionate about singing/ dancing only because their parents wouldn’t let them stop music/ dance lessons even when they refused to go for them as 7-year-olds. I also know of cases when the child rebelled – and rebelled quite vigorously – that the parent-child relationship was messed up because they forced the activities on the child.
And when it comes to academics, the line gets even more hazy.
Are marks everything? But then, don’t they count towards college admissions? Except, 4th standard marks never do. So why are parents cracking the whip on a 9-year-old? To get them into the habit of hard-work? Isn’t it sufficient if they put their nose to the proverbial grind-stone in the years that count?
I really don’t have the answers. And I don’t know which bunch of parents are right – the ones who decide their child should be a super-achiever/ perform to the best of their ability; or the ones who will sit back and watch the child learn by him/herself.
I wish I had the answer. Do you?

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

Get a life, parents!

get a life, parents!

As parents we are always scrambling to find ways to keep our children occupied- are there week-end classes, what are the latest books for my kids to read and, if you are a teen’s parent,  is there any quick project that my daughter can work on? Sounds familiar? Parents, especially the involved ones, are so busy trying to optimize their children’s lives that they often miss out on doing the same with their own.

In my case, between managing a full time job and raising two kids, I believed that I had no time to pursue my own interests or to do fun things. In the last couple of years however, I have done some introspection: how easily I give my children fundas on time management?  And how often have I spoken to them on exhibiting a lifelong learning attitude?  How about applying these ideas to myself, I thought? And so I revived my interest in cooking and baking, began reading a lot more widely and regularly and, more recently, started to do a bit of gardening.

Now, when I look around me, I find many others I know being much more than “parents”. My husband, for example, has always found the time to do what interests him; other friends are passionately pursing everything from photography and writing to cycling and music.

As parents, by continuing to develop our own interests, we demonstrate to our children that learning need not stop at any point in time. It can continue forever. More importantly, it helps us develop a sense of balance. Rather than make our children’s lives and hence their achievements our top and most often only priority, if we set aside some time for our own interests, it helps children also get the much needed breathing space. Doing your own thing is obviously a lot of fun too. Last, when it is time for children to set out to chase their own dreams, we have something to fall back on.

So, time to get a life?

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

 

Parenting Styles – is Yours Right for Your Child?

Parenting styles - is yours right for your childEarly this year, Amy Chua, professor at Yale Law School, shot to fame – not for her legal prowess but because of a book she wrote. An excerpt of ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ published in the Wall Street Journal, ignited a global debate on pSo, is there some merit in Chua’s way of thinking? Can we say that one style of parenting is superior to another? Do the results justify the means? And most importantly, what is right for your child?generation Chinese immigrant, advocates that the Chinese style she practiced setting high performance expectations and imposing a strict regimen totally devoid of distractions and social interactions – yielded better outcomes than the laissez faire Western style.arenting. Chua, a second

With increasing demands on the time of both parents and children, and with the world around us changing so quickly, parenting, in today’s fast-paced urban India, is a kin to an emotional roller coaster ride. It can be exciting and exhilarating one moment, but nerve wracking and even scary at other times. With rising disposable incomes, global exposure and increasing access to technology, the world in which Indian children are growing up today is so different from the one their parents grew up in.

As parents, are you equipped to deal with the future shock?

It’s true that children are not born with instruction manuals, but parents across the ages have devised their own methods, as you would surely have, to deal with their own. The method you fall back on to raise your children, or your parenting style, is often shaped by your own experiences with your parents, your cultural context and your family beliefs and values.

A well-researched subject, parenting styles can be broadly divided into four buckets – authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and neglectful. “Do as I say, no questions asked” is authoritarian, whereas, “Let us discuss why it is important for you to do this,” is authoritative. “If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it,” is permissive while, “I don’t really care whether or not you do it,” is neglectful.

Today’s fathers may perhaps recall that their own fathers’ styles were mostly authoritarian! Families with both parents working (who are also on guilt trips!) sometimes adopt the permissive style. In some grown-ups, permissive parenting is also a reaction to the methods adopted in raising them – “I had such a hard time in my childhood with no freedom at all. My daughter should be able to do what she wants.”

Chinese vs. Western Parenting Styles – Recent Brouhaha

“Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do: attend a sleepover, have a playdate, be in a school play, complain about not being in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, get any grade less than an A, not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama, play any instrument other than the piano or violin, not play the piano or violin,” says Amy Chua, author of ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’.

Different strokes for different folks – Parenting styles day-to-day

Our guess is that most parents would not have chosen a single parenting style as the response to all the four scenarios described earlier. That is because parenting styles are not cast in concrete – they are not water-tight compartments in which your children and you swim during the entire parenting journey! ParentEdge team’s own research and observations show that there are few parents in India who follow one style predominantly and consistently over time. And that is the way it should be for the following reasons:

The child’s temperament

Parenting is not a one-way street – the child’s own way of responding to people and events (temperament) inter plays with the parent’s style. Factors that indicate temperament are aspects of an individual’s personality that are innate –the ‘nature’ part of your child rather than the ‘nurture’! This explains why your daughter is a hyper-active extrovert, while your son a quiet introvert.

According to psychologists Dr. Stella Chess and Dr. Alexander Thomas, there are nine attributes that help identify a child’s temperament (see Box).We have added some pointers to fine tuning your parenting style to match the attribute of your child. According to research, temperament cannot be forcibly changed and so it is a good idea to work with your child’s temperament rather than try and change it through your style (which can be a frustrating experience).

Change your style as your child grows up

You should also consider adapting your style as your child grows up. For very young children, certain situations demand an authoritarian style as they may not appreciate reasoning and it may be impractical to launch discussions. As an example, your three-year-old is trying to push another child into the swimming pool’s deep end. What will work best is a yell, “Stop that! Now!” On the other hand, teenagers are prone to go through a rebellious phase and continuing an authoritarian style (even in selective situations) that has worked till then may not be a wise thing to do.

Between the ages of three and 18, a child goes through many significant changes physically, mentally and emotionally. A hyper-active toddler could grow into a calm and mature adolescent while quiet pre-schoolers could become a handful as they reach their pre-teens and teens. A clinging infant may blossom into a self-sufficient and confident teenager while a confident tween could grow up to become an insecure, approval-seeking adolescent. You never can predict what’s in store. So, it is really important to watch your children and observe the changes in their temperament as they reach different milestones in their journey to adulthood. Be sure you adapt your approach to be effective at all these different stages.

The sibling factor

We talked earlier of siblings with different temperaments – despite having common genes, differences between siblings are the rule, not the exception. As your children grow up, as parents, you can be often taken by surprise to discover how different each child is from the other. Understanding that each child is unique and figuring out what works best for each of them is an important aspect of parenting. Very often parents are guilty of not being sensitive to differences, and, even worse, drawing in appropriate comparisons. One has to be particularly careful while setting performance goals or benchmarks – academic or otherwise, and avoid force-fitting interests.

A style for an occasion

An authoritarian style may just be what the doctor ordered for a child who is constantly testing boundaries. It may also be occasionally useful to quell willful behaviour, especially in younger children, or when you want to send a stern message to correct an unacceptable behaviour in an adolescent. A permissive style may work perfectly fine with children who are mature, responsible and internally motivated, especially in late adolescent stages. On the other hand, it is fine to use an apparently ”neglectful” approach on certain occasions – for example, you want to get your child out of the habit of seeking approval constantly and teach him to make his own decisions – “I don’t care if it is this or that”- to push him to make his own decisions.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

 

Choosing the Right School for Your Child – A Check List

choosing the right school for your child

The choice of a school is one of the most important decisions that marks your child’s journey in formal education outside the home. Given the plethora of choices today, both for independent pre-schools and full-fledged schools, it is no wonder that the school search process has become a complex affair. ParentEdge aims to simplify this for you, through a structured approach that you can adopt by listing all aspects to be taken into consideration.We did this by drawing from our own experience and polling parents and high school children for their ‘two bits’.

Step 1: Factors to Consider

Reputation

Brands play a big role in our life, and it cannot be denied that a well-known school is very attractive. But, as discerning parents, you should dig deeper and try to understand what has made a school famous. Is it because it has been around for decades, or is it for specifics like sports facilities or results in board exams?“Parents know that they want to put their children in a ‘good’ school but their research should go beyond that and they should have clear-cut expectations. Then it will be easier to find the school that matches those expectations,” echoes Subodh Sankar, an IT Entrepreneur whose daughter is in Grade Six.With many schools having numerous branches within a city, it is particularly important to check the specifics of the branch that you are applying to. Parents have reported that there is huge variation in quality within the same ‘brand.’That said, if you are impressed with a school that has started recently, do research the background of the people behind the school, their philosophies and track record of living up to a promise. You should view a great website and other savvy marketing methods with caution and not be unduly influenced.

Distance from the School and Commute Time

Many parents, especially those with younger children, favour schools closer home. However,given that many schools have campuses that are far from the city, you may need to take a call depending on your child’s stamina levels, eating habits and temperament.

Curriculum

Along with the numerous State Boards, CBSE and ICSE schools, the last few years have seen many schools offering IGCSE and IB curricula. The January-February cover feature of ParentEdge carried an exhaustive analysis of what each of these curricula have to offer.Beyond weighing the pluses and minuses of various curricula, you should also check the quality and consistency of teaching (across different grades) and overall confidence level and performance of students from the school over time.

Affiliation to/Accreditation by a Board

While the school may follow a curriculum prescribed by a board,for parents with children in middle and high school, it may be important to ascertain the formal board affiliation, especially in the case of new schools. Do check with the management, for such details.Also check if the school is receiving aid of any kind from the government, or has been built on government-sanctioned land. These could influence the policies the school may frame in the future – given the provisions of the Right To Education(RTE) Act.With ‘international’ schools mushrooming everywhere, it is advisable that parents check if the schools that offer IB or IGCSEare duly accredited.

Focus on Academics

Do go beyond the Grade Ten/Twelve results of a school, and delve deep to find out what the students from the school have gone onto do. Also, find out what this focus translates to in terms of day to-day work – volume and nature of homework given, for example.The levels of rigour should match your expectations of the school’s role in academics.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

The value of a Liberal Arts education

As Indian parents, we value education- especially education that is focused and leads to a goal. Most of us have gone through traditional, focused education in India right from our high school days.  We do not understand what a Liberal Arts education is about- it confounds us!

Simply speaking, it is a system of education that believes that the journey is as important as the destination. It believes in creating well rounded individuals with skills that will help them manoeuvre their way around this complex world- the emphasis is on life skills than knowledge per se. A Liberal Arts education encourages students to step outside their comfort zone and study diverse subjects in order to expose them to new thinking and ideas that they can ponder upon, analyse and draw conclusions from.

When you are getting a Liberal Arts education (usually at the undergraduate level), you study a variety of subjects, an eclectic mix, so to speak, which seemingly have nothing to do with each other, but which will help shape you into a well rounded individual. A Liberal Arts education helps you think, analyse and form your own conclusions about subjects as varied as literature, philosophy, psychology, theatre, math and even sciences.

Liberal Arts education is originally supposed to have evolved in Europe where it slowly died down over centuries.  It has seen a revival in the United States with several Liberal Arts colleges and Universities specialising in a Liberal Arts education.   Most colleges offer a full-time, four-year course of study that leads to a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree.  The colleges that offer these programmes are almost always small- the student-teacher ratio is high, there is heavy student-teacher interaction in classrooms and the focus is on developing critical thinking skills which will help an individual make well-informed decisions as they move on to the workplace.

My daughter is in the US getting a Liberal Arts education at Tufts University. The University believes that the abilities to work in a team structure, verbally communicate with persons inside and outside an organisation, obtain and process information to make decisions and solve problems and most importantly the ability to plan, organise and prioritise work are what an employer looks for in an employee and that these abilities are embedded in a Liberal Arts education. To give you an idea, my daughter is doing International economics, Psychology, a writing seminar and an acting class in her first semester. She will work individually and in teams; she will study these subjects thoroughly, analyse and debate and write papers with which she can effectively communicate her ideas and thoughts; she will be exposed to information from diverse sources- she will learn to process all this information to form her own conclusions- she will do all this by planning and prioritising.

The students do just 15 hours of classroom study in a week- they are supposed to study 3 hours on their own for every hour of classroom study.  The emphasis is on learning and discovery- the teachers are available to help them at every stage of their learning process.  The students will eventually pick a major- my daughter is veering towards economics, international relations and/or journalism- she has time until the end of year two to decide; in the meantime, she will do an eclectic mix of subjects, some traditional, some new and learn wonderful and disturbing things about the world, which will prepare her to face the challenges when she sets foot into the workplace.

In these difficult times, one might think that a Liberal Arts education is a waste of time and money- when the going gets bad, one wants to revert back to the traditional. A parent might feel that a focused undergraduate degree might be of better help in the workplace.

As parents, we all look for a good ‘return on investment’.  College education has become very expensive- especially an undergraduate education in the US.  We would not want our children studying an eclectic mix of subjects that lead nowhere- while I was not such an advocate of a Liberal Arts education in the past, I am slowly understanding its value. I like the system which permits students to explore diverse options in the first two years and then veer towards something a little more focused in their final years of study so that they are not only well rounded as human beings but also equipped with the technical skills in their chosen area of study. This is precisely what a Liberal Arts education gives them and hopefully, it will be ample ‘return on investment’ as well.

It is perhaps time for colleges in India and Singapore to offer Liberal Arts programmes as part of their undergraduate degree programs.  Singapore (a very focused and disciplined city-state) is getting its first Liberal Arts college in 2013- the NUS-Yale Liberal Arts college. It is a big step for Singapore: the policy makers and the prospective users (students and parents) are hoping it will be a success.

And I am hoping my daughter’s Liberal Arts education in Tufts will prepare her to face the workplace not only in the US, but also anywhere else in the world where she might need to go.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.

Teaching Children Reading Using Phonemic Awareness

While we were doing our usual snooping around the internet for something that would Make Living Fun for our readers, we happened upon Jim’s Children Learning Reading program. Jim and his wife Elena live in Canada and they have two children Raine and Ethan. Jim has successfully used the phonemic awareness approach to teach both his children to read, and that was the foundation with which he has researched and developed the Children Learning Reading program.

We contacted him and got a review copy and we loved what he has put together. It’s one of the very few early childhood education programs that focus on phonemic awareness. At Bril we believe that whole-word, multi-sensory and phonemic-awareness-based programs benefit babies, toddlers and children, because any positive stimulation of the brain in the early years helps in overall development and neural connections being formed. There is no ‘One correct way’, ever in life, as our brains learn because of and in spite of many stimuli. While many experts go crazy over ‘scientific’ aspects, we go by what we see- real results and based on how babies really learn. As we grow up, we tend to ignore the power of the intuitive right-brain which can recognize patterns and help us learn languages even without splitting the word into letters. In fact even highly successful language courses like Rosetta Stone leverage the natural way of learning languages using audio and visual stimulus even to teach adults.  The brain seldom functions the way ‘experts’ would like them to, because it’s much more powerful, and none of us fully understand it.

Learning to read is very similar to learning to speak and phonemic awareness is one such very effective way to teach children reading. So, while Jim’s program bashes the whole-word, right-brain approach completely, we believe children need a combination of different methods for optimum brain stimulation. You’ll be amazed at how children easily relate one method to the other in their own unique way and learn using their own strengths. Don’t forget that children use multiple intelligence to learn, so by providing audio (including musical), visual & kinesthetic stimuli, a loving environment for intra & interpersonal dialogue and blending techniques you can really help your children leverage their natural learning style.

So what is Phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is a subset of phonological awareness (sound structure of language) in which listeners are able to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes, the smallest units of sound that can differentiate meaning. Separating the spoken word “cat” into three distinct phonemes, /k/, /ae/, and /t/, requires phonemic awareness.

The National Reading Panel has found that phonemic awareness improves children’s word reading and reading comprehension, as well as helping children learn to spell. Phonemic awareness is the basis for learning phonics.

At Bril we believe and know that early childhood education gives children a huge head start in life, as the period between 0-3 years is when a child’s brain is most receptive and children love to learn. They love to learn because there is no stigma attached to learning in the first few years. This window of opportunity is also great for parents to spend quality time with their children and have the pleasure of being their first teachers! The experience of spending time with your child and learning together surely Makes Living Fun!

Your Child Misses this GOLDEN Opportunity, if You Do Not Teach Your Child to Read at an early age.

The first several years of your child’s life are the most important for healthy brain development and growth. Critical aspects of a child’s brain are established well before they enter school, and it is the experiences during these sensitive periods of development that play a critical role in shaping the capacities of the brain.  Please see the graph below, which charts the synapse formation in a child’s brain at different ages.

children reading synapse formation image

As you can see, synapse formation for higher cognitive function peaks around 2 to 3 years of age. There is a direct link between a child’s academic performance and future success with positive early experiences and developing early reading skills.

Reading makes your child SMARTER, and the very act of reading can help children compensate for modest levels of cognitive ability!

So after going through Jim’s program, we believe that it is a high-quality early-childhood reading program that uses phonemic awareness and blending techniques to teach children. The program can be accessed by parents world-over in an instantly downloadable, simple, easy to follow digital (PDF and MP3) format.

Click here to visit the Children Learning Reading product website to learn more about this program and buy if you wish!

 

Disclaimer:

While Bril (Industrial Research Corporation) does thorough due diligence on all products prior to endorsement, Bril may not be held liable or responsible under any circumstance for all or any repercussion including but not limited to financial, emotional or other losses incurred due to purchase of the said product, results, customer support issues, failure to honour money-back guarantees etc. by the Vendor (Jim/ childrenlearningreading.com). Bril is not associated with Children Learning Reading or the creator of this program. No partnership exists between Jim/ Children Learning Reading and Bril.

The links in this post are affiliate links and Bril will earn a commission if a sale happens by clicking on the links in this post.